Policies are Racial Stories

[L]aw is essentially a story that reflects and legitimates the (racial) viewpoints and interests of those in power.

The same can be said for public policy.


 

From Enrique R. Carrasco, “Critical Race Theory and Post-Colonial Development: Radically Monitoring the World Bank and the IMF,” in A NEW CRITICAL RACE THEORY

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Policies are Racial Stories

Community Policing as Fostering the Police State?

As sincere as the philosophy of community policing might be, it’s not the solution to police brutality. The bad relationship between police and residents is not the cause of excessive force, it’s the result. The real cause is the fact that police officers are rarely, if ever, charged in connection to the people they kill. A Washington Post investigation found that only 54 officers had been charged in the thousands of fatal police shootings over the past decade. With those odds against police accountability, why would any marginalized community feel comfortable with more police patrolling their streets?

Terrell Jermaine Starr, “Community policing is not the solution to police brutality. It makes it worse.”
https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/11/03/community-policing-is-not-the-solution-to-police-brutality-it-makes-it-worse/

Community Policing as Fostering the Police State?

“Race remains the dark matter, the often invisible substance…”

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[R]ace remains the dark matter, the often invisible substance that in many ways structures the universe of modernity. […] But despite the best efforts of both political authorities and astronomers (I mean, politicians and social scientists) to render it invisible, it keeps exerting a tremendous gravitational force: on political economy, globalization, enlightenment, identity, subject/object, and social theory itself!

From Howard Winant (2012), “The Dark Matter,” Ethnic and Racial Studies, 35:4, 600-607.

“Race remains the dark matter, the often invisible substance…”

Moving Forward from Racial Disparities Methods, II

[C]ontemporary research on race and state policy choice has tended to draw on classic arguments about group percentages without paying close attention to their conditional claims regarding group relations and positions. A key task, then, is to complement this approach with theories that are general in scope, focus explicitly on racial relations and positions, and conceptualize race as a constructed system of social classification.

From Soss, J., & Bruch, S.K. (2008, August). Marginalization Matters: Rethinking Race in the Analysis of State Politics and Policy. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston, MA.

Moving Forward from Racial Disparities Methods, II

Moving Forward from Racial Disparities Methods

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One way to avoid this analytic impasse is to return to the more basic task of theorizing race itself. Having built an important body of findings based on composition measures, perhaps it is time to reflect on what different theoretical traditions can tell us and how they might move the field forward. In this paper, we do so by returning to the core questions of how race should be conceptualized and how race relations should matter for policy design and implementation. Drawing on constructivist theories, we suggest that greater attention should be paid to the organized field of race relations and the ways that racial groups are positioned vis-à-vis one another and dominant societal institutions.

From Soss, J., & Bruch, S.K. (2008, August). Marginalization Matters: Rethinking Race in the Analysis of State Politics and Policy. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston, MA.

Moving Forward from Racial Disparities Methods

Failures of Racial Disparities Methods

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Racial-percentage measures have achieved something akin to a taken-for-granted status. They are expected elements of a well-specified model of policy choice, and are often treated as a sufficient basis for capturing racial effects. Racial percentage measures are easy to obtain and, having been used many times before, offer advantages of comparability and replication across studies. Thus, a researcher who sets out to “include race” in a study of policy variation seems well-advised to reach for the tried and true measure of racial-group composition.

There is a significant risk in this dynamic for a field that is producing important insights into policy dynamics and racial politics. As researchers follow well-worn grooves, the traditional relationship between theorizing and measure selection can be turned on its head. Rather than digging into theoretical texts (or theorizing anew) to identify appropriate measures, researchers may simply adopt the prevailing measures and rely on conventional theoretical frames to interpret results. Finding that the minority percentage has a significant effect, the researcher may turn to a ready stock of narratives, one of which is sure to fit the observed relationship. As the minority percent rises, perhaps whites experience greater threat and respond with policies that are less beneficent and more focused on control; or perhaps positive interracial contact becomes more likely and whites respond with policies that are more beneficent and less focused on control; or perhaps white responses become less decisive as minority numbers pass some threshold needed for meaningful minority representation and policy influence.

From Soss, J., & Bruch, S.K. (2008, August). Marginalization Matters: Rethinking Race in the Analysis of State Politics and Policy. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston, MA.

Failures of Racial Disparities Methods

Beginnings of Racial Disparities Methods

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As an official matter of public policy, de jure discrimination is illegal and discredited. Yet the black-white divide continues to underwrite disparities in policy domains as diverse as education (Orfield and Lee 2007), housing (Fischer 2003), criminal justice (Western 2006), welfare provision (Soss, Fording, and Schram 2008), healthcare (Barr 2008), transportation (Bullard, Torres, and Johnson 2004), and environmental protection (Cutter 1995).

Against this backdrop, social scientists have returned to the study of race, politics, and public policy in large numbers. A major strand of this literature has explored how race may help explain differences in policy choice and implementation across state and local jurisdictions. Racial effects have emerged as a standard hypothesis in this literature and, in the process, have become closely linked to a specific operational measure: the relative frequency of racial minorities in policy-relevant populations. Diverse policy outcomes are analyzed, in this approach, via multivariate models that capture the impact of race by including the minority percent of a jurisdiction’s residential population, policy target group, or public officials.

From Soss, J., & Bruch, S.K. (2008, August). Marginalization Matters: Rethinking Race in the Analysis of State Politics and Policy. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston, MA.

Beginnings of Racial Disparities Methods